Katie Lowe – History Paper


History of American Farmers Markets

Experienced Based Informal Adult Education


Katie Lowe Commented on:


Informal education has been around as long as we have grouped together. This learning style is commonly defined as learning that takes place outside of a formal education setting; it is also identified at unscheduled and impromptu. This learning method promotes more than just autonomy, efficiency, relevancy, flexibility and accessibility. The benefits of informal learning go beyond need, motivation and opportunity; it can be both planned, unplanned and even unrecognizable by the learner. (Marsick & Watkins, 2001)


In the mid-1700’s we noticed a critical shift in the urban neighborhoods, when consumer power grew drastically. With the demand for food exponentially growing, merchants had a greater opportunity for selling opportunities. In 1763, the Common Council of the City of New York proclaimed that “the markets are intended for the benefit of house keepers who buy for their own use (Hamilton, 2002).” Over time the ranks of “house keepers” continued to grow, and the regulations eased to attract more opportunities.

Hamilton (2002) explains that during the continued growth in urban populations, markets were losing public interest due to the overcrowding and public filth in the neighborhoods. Fresh food was said to have caused many of the diseases, including cholera, typhoid, and tuberculosis, since food was more likely to spoil before being prepared for a meal. At this time, in 1822, canning industries were gaining popularity. It wasn’t until the “Beautify America” campaign, in the 1910’s that farmers markets really saw a burst of support. The Great Depression effected the markets, followed by the American automobile boom after the war.

The idea of introducing farmers markets to America began well before July 1934; Fred Beck and Roger Dahlhjelm approached E.B. Gilmore to use his land in Los Angeles, California, now known as the famous corner of 3rd and Fairfax, the tradition of farmers markets exploded; this market is widely known as the “Original Market”. A dozen farmers and other local merchants parked their trucks on the corner and sold their fresh produce, which became known as the first farmers market.  By October 1934, the market had expanded to include grocers, restaurants, farmers, merchants and other service providers each developing personal and permanent stalls. Beck and Dahlhjelm saw the expansion over just the first four months that they decided to create the first fall festival at farmers market (Gilmore Co., 2017).

Influential Factors

In 1989, farmers markets launched at Mardi Gras, where the markets survived one of the most dramatic festivals; featuring live rock bands, beads, beer, as well as a costumed pet parade with canine beauty pageant. The fall festival evolved to encourage entrepreneurship, imagination and creativity. Merchants would build their own floats and have a parade around the market. Over the decades the parade has gone away; however many merchants still dress up their stalls and get creative with costumes. This tradition changes as you cross the United States, but you will find that each market engages people of all ages with the arts, crafts, food and live music.

Farmers’ markets are a central part of individual communities throughout the United States. They not only represent the venues of local commerce, but are also important destinations for exchange of knowledge, information, food and fun. The farmers markets have grown into locations of pedagogical learning for adult educators. Effective communication is central to the success of education movements; the face-to-face interaction at farmers markets have provided continued social movement throughout history (Quintana & Morale, 2015).

Keron and Sinclair (2010) argue that farmers markets distinction with food and interaction provide a space for transformative learning. Transformative learning is applied through the open, reflective and active engagement among community members. This method has also formed an epistemology of praxis, which combines action with reflection (Carpenter & Mojab, 2011). Farmers markets have created a space for the community members to reflect on the dialog and actions that bring farmers markets together.

Travelers began to coming from around the world to visit that world-famous corner of 3rd and Fairfax. L.A. families began to prefer to shop for their groceries at the farmers market. As the markets began to grow and cars became the preferred method of transportation, parking lots became the open spaces that Farmers Markets would utilize. Not only did the parking lot set-up become a familiar icon, so did the “clock tower” that arose in 1948. Over the years, this tower has become a worldwide symbol that serves as a reminder that Farmers Markets represent food and fun (Gilmore Co., 2017).


Farmers markets across the county, regardless of large cities or small rural towns, play a vital role in providing fresh, healthy available food and education to the consumers. Both the market leaders and consumers share common goals and collaborate together for the success of this informal education opportunity (Bell, 1977). This learning is fostered through creating an organization and setting that accepts and encourages entrepreneurship, creativity, and community discussion.

The opportunity for farmers markets to educate through informal education is produced within the relationships between market leaders and consumers. Neighbors have the ability to gain a better understanding of markets and agricultural conditions through their local knowledge source; they do this through collaboration, interaction, self-reflection and personal empowerment (Quintana & Morales, 2015).


Bell, C. R. (1977). Informal learning in organizations. Personnel J, (6), 280.

Carpenter, S. and Mojab, S. (2011) ‘Introduction: A specter haunts adult education: Crafting a Marxist-feminist framework for adult education‘. In: S. Carpenter and S. Mojab (eds), Educating from

Marx: Race, Gender, and Learning. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 3-18.

Gilmore, Co. (2017). History of the Original Market. Retrieved February 17, 2017, from http://www.farmersmarketla.com/history

Hamilton, L. (2002). The American Farmers Market. Gastronomica, 2(3), 73-77.doi:10.1525/gfc.2002.2.3.73

Kerton, S. and Sinclair, A.J. (2010) ‘Buying local organic food: A pathway to transformative learning’, Agriculture and Human Values, 27(4), 401-13.

Marsick, V. J., & Watkins, K. E. (2001). Informal and incidental learning. New Directions for Adult & Continuing Education, (89), 25.

Quintana, M., & Morales, A. (2015). Learning from listservs: Collaboration, knowledge exchange, and the formation of distributed leadership for farmers’ markets and the food movement. Studies In The Education Of Adults, 47(2), 160-175.



Table 1. Summary of the History of Adult/Community Education
Areas Summary
Social Background Brief history of informal education
Highlights History of farmers markets/ the “original market”
Influential Factors Traditions/Pedagogical Learning/ Transformative Learning
Implications Conclusion